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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                          Jan. 5, 2012                   

JURY CONVICTS KANAWHA COUNTY MAN ON ILLEGAL FIREARM POSSESSION CHARGE

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Lamont Van Harris, 39, of Dunbar, W.Va. was found guilty yesterday by a federal jury sitting in Charleston of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.  Evidence at trial proved that the defendant shot a man multiple times on September 17, 2011.  Trial evidence showed that on the day of the shooting, the victim and a relative had made a purchase at an Institute, W.Va. convenience store and proceeded to exit the store when Harris began firing a 9-mm pistol which subsequently wounded the victim.  The victim was struck in the leg by the gunfire and collapsed in an alley beside the store.  Trail evidence revealed that Harris continued firing at the individual, striking him multiple times as he lay on the ground. 

The victim, who is currently confined to a wheelchair as a result of the shooting, testified yesterday at trial that he had seen Harris on only a few previous occasions and did not know him well, however, the two men had managed to engage in a few verbal altercations. Also during trial, the victim credited the store owner who came to his aid at the time of the shooting, with saving his life.  The store owner followed instructions given by a 911 operator and administered first aid until first responders arrived on the scene. 

Harris was found guilty in a 1992 jury trial in U.S. District Court and convicted of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking offense.  He was sentenced to 111 months’ imprisonment.  In 2002, Harris entered a guilty plea in U.S. District Court to a single count of distribution of cocaine.  He was sentenced to 72 months’ imprisonment. 

At the time of the September 2011 shooting, Harris was on federal supervised release for his 2002 drug conviction.  Harris faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced on April 12, 2012.

Kanawha County Bureau of Criminal Investigations conducted the investigation.  Special Assistant United States Attorney Maryclaire Akers and Assistant United States Attorney Joshua Hanks handled the prosecution. 

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